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While the Trump administration endured a raucous, bumpy first two weeks, Gov. Gary Herbert said Thursday he still has high hopes that things will settle down and Trump will be successful and will give Utah and other states more power.
"I am hopeful," Herbert told reporters after observing that Trump's first two weeks show that "it is going to be an interesting time, particularly in Washington, D.C."
When Herbert was asked what grade he would give the Trump administration so far, he said, "I'd have to give them an 'incomplete.' There's still not enough to know yet."
He listed some actions that he said are encouraging, and some mistakes.
For example, Herbert said last week he was not on board with Trump's actions to suspend the U.S. refugee program and at least temporarily halt travel of foreign nationals from seven Islamic nations.
On Thursday, Herbert expounded on his concerns, saying, "I think there's sometimes in a rush to make a judgment, they haven't vetted it properly and you haven't gotten appropriate buy-in and you have potentially unintended consequences."
Herbert declined to comment for now on a new controversial vow by Trump to overturn an IRS rule that bans pastors from endorsing candidates. He said he wants more time to see exactly what Trump said and what his motivations may be. But Herbert said, "I think religion is concerned that its rights seem to be diminished and become more narrow."
On the positive side of the Trump ledger, Herbert praised the president's nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court as someone who was carefully vetted as a quality jurist who will not legislate from the bench and will follow the law.
"I think he's a step in the right direction," the governor said. "I hope that President Trump, in fact, will do the same kind of vetting and find the same kind of people for all the federal bench."
Gorsuch wrote the 10th Circuit Court of Appeal dissent siding with the governor last year in his effort to strip funding from Planned Parenthood of Utah based on questionable undercover videos regarding the sale of fetal tissue. The majority overturned the action.
What gives Herbert even more hope is that the administration has asked governors for guidance on issues important to them, and how to give states more power. He added that he hopes to meet with the president later this month with other members of the executive committee of the National Governors Association.
Herbert said Vice President Mike Pence, former Indiana governor, has told him that he wants "to devolve power back to the states, that there has been too much of an overreach by the federal government which I agree with."
He said the administration also has asked about issues such as health-care reform, transportation funding, immigration and environmental issues. Herbert said states are stressing that "states should be equal partners with the federal government, not junior partners."
Asked about rumblings that the Trump administration may act as soon as next week to rescind the new Bears Ears National Monument, Herbert said, "I've heard the rumors. I guess I have no way to verify if it is anything more than a rumor.
He said that if lawmakers pass the resolution seeking to overturn the Bears Ears designation as expected, "I will sign it."